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Cpl. Joe Army
Posted on Saturday, June 05, 2004 - 04:40 pm:   

[NOTE: The work of “Joe Army” is being posted anonymously. In order to prevent anybody from getting in trouble, please do not publicly speculate on his identity.]

May 26th, 2004 - Cpl. Joe Army reporting

It’s taking its toll

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be many a dispatch from the front lines in Iraq, though truly I would prefer it only be a few as that would mean I was on my way home. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Ernie Pyle, but that’s my bench mark. So to that end, here we go.

The gloss and sheen of this war is gone. No longer are the daily reports of Coalition KIA mentioned, the constant fights we engage reported or the celebrations of freedom from Iraqi populace videoed.

Why we no longer report the dead, I don’t know. We had a soldier killed and four wounded on the Camp just a couple days ago when 16 missiles were launched at us. I had originally thought mortars were being dropped but Intel later confirmed it was missiles. To be fair, rockets, missiles or mortars it doesn’t really matter they all do the same, they all kill indiscriminately. I searched and searched the next few days for mention of it on the news, nothing. The car bomb that exploded outside the “Green Zone” where the Coalition Headquarters is located was mentioned, but nothing about our situation.

The constant attacks we take on our FOB (Forward Operating Base) have taken their toll on all of the soldiers, seaman, Marines and airmen here. You start to see clearly which individuals go out on a regular basis and those that don’t based on their reactions to the screams of “Incoming”. Those that go out all the time and deal with this daily have resigned themselves to a sort of fatalism. All the protection in the world; the up-armored humvees, the flack vest with the ceramic plates none of it will be enough when it’s your time. They walk instead of run to the bunkers when the rounds begin falling, assuming you can convince them to get out of their room. If they are out and remembered to stop by their room they might grab their flak vest, they sit themselves down, get comfortable, perhaps mumble a word or two about the type of round being dropped. Once the all clear is given a whispered “bastards” is heard and they go back to whatever they were doing before. Don’t look these soldiers too close in the eye, the blank, silent resignation looking back at you is often to difficult to bear.

Those that never leave are a completely different case. It’s usually someone from the company offices running around like a banshee screaming “Incoming, get to the bunkers!” A terrified excitement electrifies the pod (our living area) as people run around bumping into each other trying to get to their rooms, grab their rifles and flak vest and tear off for the nearest bunker. Once inside they huddle close to each other, the smell of fear mingling with sweat. A few more experiences such as this and they too will be slacking it to the bunker once the call sounds.

Whether you stay inside “the wire” or go out regularly the whole mess is taking its toll. Many a soldier will tell you that before they came here they understood the mission; to help the Iraqi people transition to a democracy. The Iraqi people for whom so long oppression and an iron first was all they knew, that was why we were here. As more and more bombs fall from the sky, that mission becomes less and less clear. We are we trying to free? Do they even want us to help them? Ask most Iraqi and they’ll tell in no uncertain terms, “Americans, we thank you for removing Saddam, now go home.”

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